Paula Fowle 03 August 2021
Hearing the news
Terminal illness and bereavement. How many of us have been in this position, seeing a much-loved family member, a dear friend or colleague heroically fighting illness. Trying cope with every type of medication, treatment and advice thrown at them. To then receive the news that despite attempting every known route possible there is nothing more that the medical teams can do.
This is when the imaginary food mixer in the tummy kicks in!!!
Everyone around us is trying to cope and understand what has been said and what the future holds. none of us like uncertainty.
What are we supposed to do?
Each one of us will react in a different way and it may be hard to understand what others are feeling and saying. There will be a lot of questions that come to mind as together we all search for the answers.
Terminal illness and bereavement – what’s the impact on us and those around us?
The impact on a family is huge when such news is received. There may be a lot of uncertainty about how much time is left, who do you need to share this information with. You may feel overwhelmed with fear and sadness.
How do I tell my children, what will they want to know?
If there are children involved each one will want information that they can digest and cope with; their reaction may be difficult for you to understand and leave you feeling more isolated that ever.
You may be wondering who is going to support you.
There will be a lot of questions after hearing the news for the well parent. this can be a real dilemma and a physically and emotionally exhausting time.
One of the hardest parts of all of this may be the disruption of the family routine and the change of roles within the family unit.
If poorly parent is a stay-at-home parent taking care of the children, the family home, and the dog, suddenly this is about to change. Few of us like change at any time but especially not in such circumstances as this.
Who is going to do the school run?
Who is going to do the washing and ironing?
Who gets the dinner and who will walk the dog?
Introduction of Others
The disruption may mean that others are stepping in to help either professionals or other family members or friends.
This may lead to the children feeling vulnerable and unsure possibly displaying actions and talking in a way that you have not been heard before, it is important to remember that everyone is hurting.
We all hurt in our own way, not all of us are able to reach out, some retreat into their shells.
Retreating into our shell
I have the image of a tortoise being unsure of a new route to take and withdrawing his head into their shell. These reactions can be hard to take particularly when you are feeling under pressure to hold things together and be there for everyone else.
The impact on the well parent is huge. The news may leave them confused, both physically and mentally exhausted. Although there may have been a lot of doubt about the future until these words are spoken there is always hope and a place for denying the truth.
Why wouldn’t you?? It is so hard to let go of someone special someone you love isn’t it.? To see the plans, the hopes and the dreams that were made for the future be swept away.
You may well be feeling, yesterday was a happy day … today I am not sure what type of day it is…
It’s all different now suddenly there are feelings of sadness, fear, and anger. There may also be feelings of wanting the suffering to stop but not being able to let go invoking feelings of guilt at ‘choosing the easy way out’.
Reaching out for support
There is no easy way to face such a situation but by seeking support from a Bereavement Counsellor you may feel be able to find your way. You will find acknowledgement in a non-judgemental way of your worries, your fears, and the stress of living with many uncertainties.
Trying to find your strengths … they will still be there
The support offered will give you an open space to communicate the fears and feelings that you may not want to share with others, it will help you to explore your strengths and encourage you to use them. It will give you a place to explore your fears for the future and to celebrate the good times in the past.
Making a plan
The time spent can offer an opportunity to plan what you need to say to your children, you know it will feel uncomfortable and will be distressing, think about what you might want them to know, what questions they might ask, it might be tricky dealing with the questions that come back at you, hopefully some of the time spent with your Counsellor can prepare you for this.
None of us are perfect
The one thing to remember with all of this, is we don’t always get things right. This situation will be different for us all; there is no right or wrong way.
Allow time for the news to sink in. Grant yourself the thinking time. By seeking support for yourself you will find the strength to support those suffering around you too.
A final thought:
Reaching out at a time of loss is the hardest thing to contemplate. A listening ear can offer you a safe place as you try to weather the storm.